Endsley Attempts to Allay Fears Caddo Lake National Heritage Area Will Lead To Federal Regulation
By BOB PALMER
After three public meetings to provide information about a proposal to designate several hundred acres in Texas and Louisiana and a national heritage area, Collins Academy Executive Director Gary Endsley knows what he is up against.
“Most of those who object have read (the proposed bill),” Endsley said. “Some who have read it simply do not believe what they see. Some know we always have to be cautious. Those are the people we are trying to satisfy with our meetings.”
Endsley believes the value of the Caddo Lake National Heritage Area should become apparent.
“All in all, this a low risk, no harm deal,” Endsley said.
The Collins Academy executive explained the proposal would boost tourism in the area without impacting property rights, as many opponents fear.
“Nothing in it abridges any landowner rights. In fact, there is a very strong prohibition against using federal money to purchase any real property,” Endlsey said.
Of the 49 existing national heritage areas, none have purchased any property, according to Endsley. He also noted that in Texas for a community to create zoning regulations, the city must have 5,000 population.
Endsley also asserted nothing in the legislation would affect hunting and fishing in the Caddo Lake area. Property owners would still be free to manage and use their property as they saw fit.
“There is no permitting process,” Endsley said.
Area representatives in Washington have voiced support for the bill.
“Sen. (Ted) Cruz has long led efforts to protect the rights of private landowners and rein in federal overreach. With that in mind, Sen. Cruz is in the process of reviewing Congressman (Louie) Gohmert’s legislation to integrate Caddo Lake into a larger National Heritage Area and is taking into consideration community input on the matter,” a Cruz spokesperson said.
U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe went further. “In addition to providing economic benefits, this legislation would not take away a person’s property rights and includes the strictest private property protection language in any such enabling bill,” Ratcliffe stated in a recent letter. “A recent GAO report surveyed every existing National Heritage Area stated that not a “single example of a heritage area directly affecting—positively or negatively—private property values or use” was found. Further, this bill would not lead to any restrictions on recreational activities such as hunting and fishing as these types of activities are regulated at the state level.”
Additional meetings are set for July 24, August 14 and 23. All sessions are set to begin at 3 p.m. at the Collins Academy office on Broadway.
Endsley elaborated further in an interview with the Jimplecute.
JIMP: Explain CLNHA?
ENDSLEY: It’s a program that would aid tourism in the Caddo Lake area. It’s about tourism and tourism development. Bringing more tourists to the area and stay longer and leave more of their money behind. It’s about local control. Local people making the decisions. It’s not about a few people making the decisions and everybody looking over their shoulder. The proposed legislation is easy to read and only seven pages long. Nothing in it abridges any landowner rights. In fact, there is a very strong prohibition against using federal money to purchase any real property.
JIMP: How are the meetings going?
ENDSLEY: The meetings are going well we have another scheduled. The first one was pretty raucous. The second more so. The third was very civil. Looking forward to talking about the benefits at upcoming meetings.
JIMP: Where did this idea come from?
ENDSLEY: You have to go back to a 2006 study called the Caddo Lake Heritage Awareness and Education Project. That project was funded by the Texas Historical Commission and its Louisiana counterpart to inventory natural features and sites at and close to Caddo Lake in order to formulate an inventory and develop an interpretive story lines that could be utilized in the thematic water and road trails. Ever since then, Collins Academy volunteers and associates have been working to put together the public education and outreach components that help make up the activities of a national heritage area. Preservation and conservation are also important aspects of what we have been working on. Those detractors or those who do not want to participate do not have to participate at all. Those who want to participate with us are welcome to let us know.
JIMP: If you have this governing body, won’t people have to seek their permission to do things on their land like build a pool or harvest timber?
ENDSLEY: There are no regulations to this. The only thing the commission can regulate is themselves through their by-laws. There is no permitting process.
JIMP: If the board has no authority, what is its purpose?
ENDSLEY: The board governs the commission. The commission does the actual work.
JIMP: What are some of the artifacts, structures or natural phenomime the act seeks to preserve or recognize?
ENDLSLEY: Boat trails, makers out in Caddo Lake will point out what you can see from the boat, but you never put a foot on land. The same applies with the road trails. Signs will point out sites like an old plantation. It’s like if you have a historical marker on your house in Jefferson. Just because you have it, you are not giving up any rights. This is not like a national park. This is the other way. This seeks to protect property rights while the locals decide what they want to with what they have.
JIMP: Who gets the money?
ENDSLEY: Property owners could receive grant money at about the three-year mark to make sites more accessible or other reasons. This has just started. Any distribution of grants has got to be transparent. In the language of the legislation, you have to live in the footprint. I live in Atlanta. I want to see (Collins Academy) programs grow and expand. My personal benefit is to keep my job.
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